The hard-working and resilient spirit of North-East women is also making its mark in the field of entrepreneurship in the region. Absorbing the peculiarities of the region, the form of entrepreneurial culture is taking a unique shape. Entrepreneurship is perceived as a confluence of economic empowerment and the indispensable role of women in the region’s socio-cultural history magnifying their role as agents of change in the NER.
The report from sixth economic census supports this entrepreneurial phenomenon where amongst the highest percentage distribution of female proprietary establishments from both rural and urban areas, six out of the top ten states are from the NER; Manipur ranks first with 80% establishments owned by women in both rural and urban area. In the same report, the top three states with the highest percentage distribution of women-owned urban proprietary establishments are Manipur (77%), Meghalaya (57%), and Nagaland (56%) respectively.
Needless to say, entrepreneurship (and women entrepreneurship) in NER is booming. With a gradual shift in mindsets amongst the economically active cadre of resources identifying themselves as potential or existing entrepreneurs, there's still more to be done. For NER women entrepreneurs, there is an unmistakable need for an entrepreneurship ecosystem that can enable them to thrive; an ecosystem that ties in multiple factors like business knowledge and skills, tools, access to credit and market linkages, market confidence, capabilities, infrastructure, and many others that subsequently translates into higher participation of women in shaping the policies directly affecting them. This humongous measure can be possible only with all the players coming together to build one.
GIZ Project Her&Now and Dhriiti- The Courage Within, their NER implementation partner, have actively been supporting the creation of a women entrepreneurship network in the states of Manipur and Nagaland in the past year.
In Manipur, the women entrepreneurs are leading the network under the name Women Entrepreneur Manipur Network (WEMN). The core team consists of entrepreneurs who were part of Project Her&Now support program and other established entrepreneurs from the state.
Elizabeth Yambem, Founder, Dwellers Teas, and also one of the founding members of WEMN, shares its goals, “We envision a strong-knit community and an avenue of support for all the women entrepreneurs in the state. We want our collective voice to help shape the state policies so they can support women entrepreneurs better.”
Tedawnshim Khaling, Co-Founder of Unibrow Studio and another founding member of WEMN states, “We at Women Entrepreneur Manipur Network envision building a resilient ecosystem for women entrepreneurs where women like us come together, share and support each other in failures and success. We organized our first networking event in November 2021 where we had more than 25 women entrepreneurs joining in to share their experiences. Fostering a bond of sisterhood amongst the women entrepreneurs, WEMN plans to facilitate peer to peer network, build capacities, and engage with government and other key stakeholders.”
In Nagaland, the approach is slightly different. To establish the network, Her&Now and Dhriiti are working together with the Investment and Development Authority of Nagaland (IDAN), a state government development agency, to facilitate women entrepreneurship network. Under the aegis of this partnership, a team of women entrepreneurs from the support program has formed Women Entrepreneur Network Nagaland (WENN).
Stating the vision of the partnership and the support for women entrepreneurs, Mr. Alemtemshi Jamir, CEO, IDAN, elaborates, “We place great hope in the women entrepreneurs of the state. IDAN being associated with the state government, we have to create the portfolios and means in which the investment comes in, so we are very happy that GIZ, Dhriiti, and the women-led network are already doing a lot of work, and we would like to support them in the best possible manner and help build them up.”
With the network coming to shape, Nengneithem Hengna, Founder, Runway India, and one of the founding members of WENN highlights its scope and activities as, “With the advent of WENN, the women entrepreneurs associated with it feel a different surge of energy and excitement wherein apart from professional guidance, the members have also established a support group to address their professional challenges, mental health, and the perceived guilt developed while balancing both professional and family life. The WENN core team has had several discussions over the period and keeping all those factors in mind, we wish to build a wholesome, accessible-to-all platform that would enable women to excel in their business with proper information & mentorship in all areas and also a strong support system that would nurture mental well-being as well.”
For the women entrepreneurs from Manipur and Nagaland, these networks present an opportunity to grow together as an entrepreneurial community rather than one for their own; a network that goes beyond communal solidarity and leverages the common denominator of entrepreneurial needs and identity of being a women entrepreneur. It means becoming mentors, critics, and a strong support system; to be able to create a safe space to grow, to celebrate the journey of another woman entrepreneur, access to finance, and ease of doing business that can bring forth generations of entrepreneurs; It means to bring in a system for transparency in availing growth opportunities and to negotiate for a deserving seat at the table to influence decisions that are important to women entrepreneurs.
It means the coming together of more and more entrepreneurship agents/individuals to realize the vision of turbocharging women's entrepreneurship in the state and to join hands to support these networks and create and build similar networks in all the states of the NER.
Learn more about the Manipur and Nagaland networks here.
Ovi heads Partnerships and Programming at Dhriti-The Courage Within. With a background in corporate IT and in the digital sector, her experience in empowering small businesses in India and North America has strengthened her vision to support entrepreneurship and to generate more livelihood choices. A business school graduate and a former founder of an e-commerce start-up, she advocates the need for a more thriving ecosystem for women entrepreneurs in the country, and believes in becoming a transformative agent by lending her voice to the cause. She is currently managing the implementation of Project Her&Now in the North East Region from Dhriiti.
Siam is the Incubation Manager for Project Her&Now- NER India implemented by Dhriiti-The Courage Within. With a background in Social Work and a focus in Rural Development it has been pivotal in fulfilling the goal of economic empowerment of marginalized sections. She firmly believes in working with empathy along with providing new innovative ideas for implementation of programs at the ground level with critical social perspectives. She is committed to enhancing and uplifting the status of women in arenas of social, political, economic and cultural development.